It seems like Bobby McFerrin’s song “Don’t Worry, Be Happy” was more than just a popular ditty, and the classic “hakuna matata” mantra from “The Lion King” was more than “a wonderful phrase.” Your emotions, mental well-being and outlook on life are connected and can have a major impact on your physiology, for better or worse. It is important to find ways to be your best self and to take your mental health and happiness into your own hands.
What Does It Mean to Be Happy?
Happiness is good fortune, pleasure and joy. It can be defined as a state of fulfillment or a feeling of experienced positive emotion. Psychology researcher Sonja Lyubomirsky says happiness is “the experience of joy, contentment, or positive well-being, combined with a sense that one’s life is good, meaningful and worthwhile.”
Happiness means different things to many people. But therein lies the major problem with applying it to plausible scientific research, according to some scientists.
Happiness and Science
Though much research has gone into understanding the impact of happiness on our mental health, much more needs to be done. And while there is a significant amount of clinical evidence to suggest there are distinct and direct correlations between psychological and emotional responses on the physical body, not much has been proved to suggest there is a direct connection on a molecular level.
Cultural research has shown there are significant connections between happiness and positive impacts on health functions.
How Happiness Helps
Various studies over the years have shown there are several ways that having happiness as a core attitude can positively impact your life:
- Happiness through positive responses. Negative responses to psychological stress and unfavorable circumstances has been shown to increase the chances of developing coronary heart disease and Type 2 diabetes. Developing proactive reactions to stressful incidents may reduce the chances of developing these diseases.
- Happiness through healthy relationships. A study on loneliness showed that isolated individuals had increased genes affecting inflammation in the body and decreased genes with antiviral properties; the exact opposite results were shown in social individuals. This study, replicated many times, shows the importance of maintaining positive, supportive relationships.
- Happiness through gratitude. Research done with a group of Catholic nuns used autobiographical essays to show that expressions of appreciation, love, pleasure and enjoyment over the course of years contributed to a longer life expectancy.
- Happiness through health and fitness. Regular exercise has been shown to decrease depression, as well as increase endorphins, the feel-good chemicals in the brain.
Getting (and Staying) Happy
Once you determine how to be happy based on your personal definition, it is important to cultivate it as a key character trait and incorporate it into as many aspects of your daily life as possible. Consider more activities to foster a lifestyle of happiness and positively impact your mental health and happiness:
- Get ample rest. Considered one of the most overlooked health problems in the U.S., sleep deprivation has been directly correlated to decreased emotional stability. Getting an extra 60 to 90 minutes of sleep a night would improve your mood, memory, concentration and immune system.
- Practice mindfulness. Mindfulness meditation has been proven to help reduce stress and connect practicing participants to their own inner contentment and connections to others.
- Be kind. Studies show that giving and other acts of kindness increase life satisfaction.
- Find the silver lining. Optimism and thinking positively decrease anxiety, impact your mood and clear thought processes. All of these, studies show, produce better overall health and life longevity.
- Speak happy thoughts. A tool many people find helpful in their quest for contentment is finding happiness quotes or mantras. Reading witty, well-crafted sayings helps motivate people emotionally and psychologically.
If you are concerned about depression, anxiety or anything impacting your emotional mood and overall mental health and happiness, please contact us to make an appointment. Our clinicians at LifeStyle Medical Centers can help you develop a plan for the life you want to live.